Population decrease in one quarter of Dutch municipalities

Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency                         

PRESS RELEASE                                          

New regional population forecasts to 2040:  

In some parts of the Netherlands, especially in the periphery of the country, the population will decrease substantially in the next thirty years. In one quarter of Dutch municipalities the number of inhabitants will fall by more than 2.5 percent by 2040; a total of one quarter of a million inhabitants. In the more central parts of the country, however, particularly in the Randstad, the population will grow, by just over 1.25 million.

These are among the figures in the new Regional population forecast 2009 - 2040 published by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency and Statistics Netherlands.

Decrease particularly in peripheral areas

According to the forecast, the population will decrease in the areas on the edge of the Netherlands in particular. In northeast Groningen, south Limburg and south Zeeland the population is already decreasing and will continue to do so in the coming decades. Around 2025 some 150 thousand people fewer will be living in these areas.

Parkstad Limburg in the south of the country is expected to have 15 thousand fewer inhabitants than now, and between 2025 and 2040 the population will decrease by another 40 thousand. In the overall period to 2040 the population in this region will decrease by 15 percent, with the cities of Heerlen and Kerkrade bearing the brunt. Northeast Groningen in the north of the country will have 12 thousand fewer inhabitants in 2025 than it now has. The population of Delfzijl in particular is decreasing. The number of people living in northeast Groningen will fall further, and by 2040 will be nearly 15 percent smaller.

The population in Zeeuws-Vlaanderen region of Zeeland in the southwest of the country will decrease by 10 thousand between now and 2040; a decrease of just over 10 percent. And in the Achterhoek region of Gelderland in the east, the population will shrink by some 20 thousand people in the next three decades, a decrease of  5 percent.

The diminishing populations in the outskirts of the Netherlands are mainly the result of the ageing population: more people die than are born there. Moreover, young people move away form these regions to more central parts of the country to study and work.

Growth mainly in Randstad

In spite of these local decreases, the total population of the Netherlands continues to grow: in 2040 17.5 million people will be living in the country, about one million more than now. This substantial increase will take place mainly in the Randstad region in the west of the country and the central regions. In the coming three decades, the population in these areas will grow by 1.25 million people.

The growth will be concentrated in the Randstad, with Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht and Almere leading the way. Between now and 2025 the population of Amsterdam is expected to grow by 90 thousand people, compared with 80 thousand for Utrecht. In Almere an increase of 60 thousand people is expected. The other two large cities, Rotterdam and The Hague, will see their populations increase by around 40 thousand inhabitants.

Outside the Randstad, too, the number of inhabitants in some municipalities will grow substantially in the next 15 years. These include university cities and cities with a strong business structure. In Groningen, Nijmegen, Amersfoort, Tilburg and Zwolle the population will increase by an expected 20 to 30 thousand. In addition the population in the suburb municipalities of the large cities will also increase.

Population growth in the large cities will mainly be the result of foreign migration and natural growth (birth surplus). According to Statistics Netherlands’ forecasts, the Netherlands will be confronted by a migration surplus in the coming decades. Immigrants clearly favour the Randstad, as it offers better  prospects for work and many compatriots already live there.

In addition, young people move away from areas in the periphery of the Netherlands often to large cities to study and subsequently find a job. As large cities have a relatively young population, relatively more children are born there, and relatively few older people die there. 

The suburb municipalities surrounding the large cities grow as young couples move out of the city to new housing developments there, where they can more easily find a one-family home and have more room to raise their children.